In talking to other people in recovery, I know I’m not the only one who has felt disappointed or sad about things they lost in active addiction. I’ve regretted the time I wasted, the relationships that ended, and the things I could have done differently. I still get these thoughts sometimes, but as I’ve gotten further into sobriety, I’ve learned to work with them.
If you regret lost time, that’s normal. I try to allow myself to feel these feelings, while acknowledging that I now have the clarity to spend my time with intention. I’m a big goals person, but especially in the first few years of sobriety, working towards goals really helped shift my focus. It made me feel like I was taking back control of my time.
It also helps me to do an inventory of what I’ve gained in recovery. Writing sobriety-specific gratitude lists reminds me of the things I have now, rather than what I missed out on.
I wouldn’t be the same person if I had just never used substances, and you probably wouldn’t be either. No one wants to go through the terrors of addiction, but it helps me make meaning of the past to focus on what recovery brings to my life, rather than what active addiction took away. Recovery is such a singular and wonderful experience.
I’ve heard it said that when you get sober, emotionally you are the age you were before you became addicted. It’s a good metaphor for the amount of emotional growth that happens in recovery. I was not far from 30 when I got sober, but the depth of work I’ve done since has in many ways been more profound than through my entire 20’s.
What this means for dealing with regrets is that you can see them as another opportunity for learning, growing, and healing. They don’t have to be a tape you play in your head over and over with no solution. You can use them as points of curiosity; the things you regret missing out on or losing are likely very important to you. For instance, if you mourn relationships you lost, dig deeper into what you got from those relationships and how you can cultivate it now.
This is not all to say that it’s bad to grieve lost time, opportunities, or relationships. It’s important to allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise. It’s just not helpful to get stuck there. Active addiction often keeps you repeating the same mistakes over and over. In recovery, it’s empowering to realize you have control over how you move forward.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, you can heal. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you move forward into a great life in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 833.641.0572.